The massive range of dog toys on the market nowadays is mindboggling, ranging from cheap £1 toys to expensive lumps of plastic, and electronic ball throwers costing hundreds of pounds!
The thing is, not all dogs are the same and not all dogs like to ‘play’ in the same way. Some love nothing more than chasing a ball, all day, every day, others prefer to use their jaws and chew things to pieces or play tug with their owners. Here at Wagnificent we have made a list of our top ten, value for money dog toys, where you are guaranteed to find something to suit your furball.
1. The Kong
It feels like the Kong has been around for forever. On first sight it does not look all that interesting, but with a bit of human involvement, this little blob of hollowed out plastic, becomes magical for dogs.
Kongs are American made, very robust and guarantee value for money as they seem to last forever! The original Kong founder, Joe Markham designed it to save his shoes and his house as he had a very keen and destructive chewer of a dog, called Fritz. The firm rubber material makes it ideal for chewing and its shape guarantees an unusual bounce when thrown.
Kongs come in a variety of sizes, from puppy to giant and when filled with a blob of peanut butter (ensure it is palm oil and Xytlol free!) a piece of apple, or maybe some cheese, it is the perfect thing to keep your dog amused.
We often use this when we know we have to leave the dogs for a couple of hours and want something to stimulate them. You can also freeze them before hand which makes it even more interesting and will have many dogs licking at the contents for some time! Stuff them loosely and leave a treat of some kind stuck in the top in order to make it more interesting. If you feed a natural diet you can also like to feed your dog using the Kong! Make them mentally and physically work for their food, after all they didn’t have boxes of dry kibble, packs of meat or tin openers in the wild!
If you live near lakes or rivers or in a warm country and are lucky enough to have a pool, also look out for the Aqua Kong which actually floats and can be used as a tugger or as part of a retrieve exercise.
There are a wide range of tugger type toys on the market and they are perfect for dogs who love nothing more than using their jaws and shaking their toys to death. It’s a great way for your dog to let off steam in a controlled and non aggressive manner. Here at Wagnificent we have found little difference in some of the cheapest tuggers and some of the more well known brands. The key elements to look for are the quality and ensuring it is the correct length for your dog and a comfortable hand hold for the human. Nothing worse than playing ‘tug’ with an over zealous Yorkshire terrier on a short tug – after a while you will probably get a sore back. The dogs here in the Wagnificent office are split between treat orientated dogs and tug or toy motivated. In a recent agility class the differences were stark, as half the class had a big hook on pouches of dog treats, and the other half had high quality agility focussed retrieve toys. At the end of each exercise, the owners rewarded their dog with THEIR preferred item.
3. Agility Sets
It’s vital that your dog is mentally stimulated and not just physically exercised, which is why agility and flyball have become so popular around the world as they deliver both. Destructive dogs are often bored, so wearing them out with a mental activity will do them the world of good. You can attend formal or informal classes to pick up the basics and then potentially do some at home in your own back garden. It is recommended that your dogs do not jump any of the obstacles until they are at least a year old, but that does not mean you cannot attend agility classes. Just having your dog in that environment, with new sniffs, new friends with new challenges would mentally stimulate your dog. They can still run through the ‘wings’ of the jumps, so when they get to a year old the inclusion of the jump bar itself will feel like second nature.
After attending a few classes we made a homemade agility course at home which worked fine, just make sure weaves and jumps are well secured, so that your dog doesn’t get a fright as it falls over. We used the poles from a large family beach wind break for the weaves, children’s hoops and cheap mop handles for jumps and uprights. Once you have established that your dog enjoys it, then maybe consider upgrading to an entry level agility set, which will include the super fun tunnel!
or I prefer this one as it has a better tunnel:
4. Frozen toys for teething puppies
So you get your new puppy home, start to get somewhere with the toilet training and then they discover they have teeth! Teething puppies can be a nightmare for some owners and a breeze for others. They want to massage their gums for relief which is why they try to ‘mouth’ everything. When our two were teething we found the Petstages Cool teething stick a great help along with natural antlers and anything ‘dimpled’ or with texture. The great thing about the teething stick is you simple wet it and freeze it, so when you give it to you dog, it not only has something to chew, but the cooling actually relieves the pain of teething. There are a number of new cooling toys out there, including water filled rings, just like you would give a baby but this is the one we have tried and tested.
5. Pet Stages Durable Stick
Here at Wagnificent we generally prefer a natural and holistic approach to dog ownership, and there is little natural about this next toy, but the joy it has brought our dogs, is worth sharing. We do cover a more natural alternative with the antler a little later on. Essentially it is a plastic stick, but for some reason it is SO much more for our dogs. Made by American company Petstages the ‘durable stick’, which is available in a range of sizes from petite to large, is a mix of real wood and synthetic. There are no splinters or bits of wood around the home to worry about, in fact it would seem that only dogs can trace the natural wood contained. This is probably one of the most popular ‘toys’ we have trialled here at Wagnificent and as you can see from the images, they see a lot of action.
6. Chuck it Balls
If you have a tennis ball or retrieve mad dog, you will know that cheap tennis balls are quickly destroyed, leaving a trail of rubber and neon fur around your home and garden. The Chuck it balls are designed to withstand even the most insistent hound. They are super strong and at the time of writing, ours have not yet managed to destroy one. Despite being more expensive than traditional cheap tennis balls, they offer better value for money in the long run as you can use them for much longer.
Chuck it balls come in a range of sizes and styles. If you want to use with a standard sized ball thrower then you will need medium balls – which are the usual tennis ball size. We tend to buy the orange felt balls, rather than the plastic, floating ones, as our dogs seem to prefer to use balls, that have their scent on after they have slobbered on them after play time. If this is not the case with your dog then the plastic and floating ones – called Ultra balls – are superb, have high bounce and the same indestructible design. Again the medium size will fit a standard ball thrower.
If your dog is a keen chewer, but not over aggressively so, then you cannot go far wrong with antlers. They are natural, hard wearing and help keep your dog’s teeth super clean. Choose an interesting shape and the appropriate weight for your dog and you can be sure of a super long lasting toy for your pet.
8. Ball Throwers
The humble ball thrower has been around some time now and if you have a dog who enjoys retrieving it can be a fantastic way to exercise your dog, particularly if you are not that mobile yourself. There are a variety of different sizes you can buy, and most fit standard tennis balls and the Chuck It balls mentioned previously. Remember to not launch the ball as soon as you hit the park or beach, regardless of your pets excitement. It is really important to allow your dog to warm up before tearing off after a ball.
9. Kong Cozies
Despite sounding like a large swimming costume, these are in fact the snuggly toy range from Kong. If you dog is a snuggle monster and not a great chewer, then you might like to check out the Kong Cozie range. Filled with minimal filling and with a durable extra layer of material it is perfect for the more cuddle orientated dog. They come in a range of sizes and there are 11 colourful characters to choose from. Made by the Kong company you can be sure that it will be well stitched and safe for your pet, but please bear in mind this is not a toy for chewers!
10. Snake Toy
When we had our first puppy this was without a doubt his favourite toy. A fluffy green snake that he would drag along with him everywhere. As time moved on and he learnt to chew a little better, we had to swap from the squidgy Kong Dr Noys Snake toy to the Kyjen invincible, stuffingless free snake. He still enjoys playing with the same toy today!
BUY KONG DR NOYS SNAKE TOY HERE:
BUY KYJEN INVINCIBLE SNAKE TOY HERE:
The simple truth is that a few well thought out toys and a little of your time, your dog can be mentally stimulated, which can often improve general behaviour. Always look for the quality of any toy you buy and ensure it is suitable for a dog. Check the stitching carefully, particularly with any sewn on parts such as plastic character eyes. Flashing LED’s and battery powered gimmicks may look great in the adverts and in the shops, but in reality pets and batteries are hardly a good mix. It’s important to remember to keep an eye on your dog when they are playing with any toy, in case of choking and rips, that could harm your pet. It is a good habit, to do a toy box check every now and then and ensure your dogs most loved toys are in good repair. Over the years we have found the ‘Toy Hospital’ at our house can get very busy with lots of snakes, bears and other toys requiring emergency stitching! [Symbol] A simple check may save you a fortune in unexpected vet bills.
There is no need to spend the earth on every toy on the market, nor to always buy the most expensive available. The ball launching machines that are currently very popular are a great example. They are wonderful if you can afford them (circa £150) and have a garden suitable and a dog that loves to retrieve, but it will not suit everyone’s, dog, circumstances or indeed budget. Not to say we wouldn’t consider one here at Wagnificent Towers, if we had won the lottery!
And spare cash would be much better spent on high quality, nutritional food and some reward based obedience training.
You cannot simply buy a happy, content, well adjusted and trained dog. Your dogs like to engage with you! You are their world, so getting down and playing can be the best bonding experience for you both.